Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin disclosed details to back his claim of attempts to convince him to interfere in the judicial process in order to help Umno politicians facing corruption charges, MalaysiaNow has learnt amid renewed interest in the issue following recent remarks by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
In his response to a legal notice from Najib’s lawyers, Muhyiddin also named “a very senior lawyer” whom he said was being targeted by the convicted former leader.
Muhyiddin said he had been approached by Najib as well as through intermediaries with requests that the individual be removed from prosecuting in the ongoing corruption cases.
“Despite threatening a defamation suit, there was no follow-up action from Najib’s side after the response from Muhyiddin,” a source in Umno who is close to the Najib faction told MalaysiaNow.
Last September, Muhyiddin was served a letter of demand by Najib’s lawyers, urging him to explain whether he was behind “rumours” that Najib had asked him to interfere in his court cases.
This came days after Muhyiddin spoke of attempts by a group of politicians to get him to interfere in corruption cases involving them.
The Bersatu president made the claim last August, at the peak of a campaign to oust him by Najib and Umno leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Bersatu spokesman Wan Saiful Wan Jan subsequently urged Najib and Zahid to come clean on rumours that they were the individuals meant by Muhyiddin.
Najib and Zahid face more than 80 criminal charges between them, related to the abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust (CBT).
Muhyiddin, who despite becoming prime minister in March 2020 with support from the Umno bloc, had pledged not to interfere in court cases involving a group of Umno MPs, or what has come to be known as the court cluster.
In October 2020, MalaysiaNow reported that Muhyiddin was approached by Zahid in a bid to have his corruption charges dropped.
“But he went back disappointed, files in hand,” a source had told MalaysiaNow about the private meeting in March 2020, just days after Muhyiddin was sworn into power.
The issue of judicial inteference returned to the limelight last week after chief justice Maimun, when asked about Muhyiddin’s claim, said no one had approached her to seek her interference, and insisted that the members of the judiciary would remain independent.
Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim then urged Muhyiddin to explain his allegations that there had been requests for him to interfere in corruption cases.
In his reply sighted by MalaysiaNow, Muhyiddin said the statements he made on alleged attempts to meddle in the judiciary had never named Najib.
Instead, he said Najib had identified himself by issuing the legal notice.
Muhyiddin, in his reply to Najib’s laywers, also described the Umno leader as a “convicted criminal”.
“Given his conviction, your client would not, in any event, be entitled to any damages for any alleged harm to his reputation,” he said.
Last month, the Court of Appeal rejected Najib’s bid to overturn a conviction related to RM42 million in his bank accounts.
In July 2020, the High Court sentenced Najib to 10 years’ jail for each of the six charges related to CBT and money laundering and 12 years for abuse of power, for which he was also fined RM210 million or five times the amount in question – a total of 72 years. The judge however said Najib would serve the sentences concurrently for a total of 12 years.